The suggestion evokes a play from ancient Athens where Greek women refused to have sex with men until they ended a war between nation states.
Singer Bette Midler took a page from history last week in retaliation to Texas's recently enacted abortion law. The controversial law makes it illegal for anyone to help women get an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest. Urging women to take action against the radical move, Midler called for women to go on a sex strike to protest the draconian law. "I suggest that all women refuse to have sex with men until they are guaranteed the right to choose by Congress," the 75-year-old tweeted. According to HuffPost, the Hocus Pocus star's suggestion evokes "Lysistrata," a play from ancient Athens where Greek women refused to have sex with men until they ended a war between nation states.
Midler is not the first one to call for a sex strike in response to anti-abortion laws. Alyssa Milano called for a similar strike in 2019 after a controversial anti-abortion "heartbeat" law was passed in Georgia but later shot down by the courts. However, not everyone supported Midler's proposed action. Criticizing the suggestion, Twitter user Carmen Theresa wrote: "Trading sex in exchange for health rights or any others seems demeaning --as if we think rights are granted to us by men in exchange for services." Meanwhile, Ali Segel claimed it implies straight women have sex to please men.
"This thinking implies sex is something we GIVE to men as opposed to something we also receive for pleasure? Women like sex. We deserve pleasure. Why would we fight for our bodily autonomy with abstinence of our right to pleasure," she tweeted. However, there were many others who took Midler's side by pointing out that her suggestion underscores that although it takes two to make cause a pregnancy, women are the ones singled out for shame and penalties for an abortion, while men get to easily dodge any responsibility or consequences.
September 3, 2021
The least you could do is link a good vibrator for the ladies, then I’m sure this could work— Bailey Sarian (@BaileySarian) September 4, 2021
Thank you 🙏 Bette Midler! The war on women has started. 😢 pic.twitter.com/ar3kKBkcet— VOTE BLUE 🇺🇸2022 🇺🇸 (@MFrance923) September 4, 2021
I'm down with Bette Midler's #SexStrike...— Angela Belcamino (@AngelaBelcamino) September 4, 2021
who's with me?
Why can’t men stop having sex if they aren’t ready to be a father ?— wear a damn mask (@mxrtxlities) September 4, 2021
United Nations human rights monitors strongly condemned the state of Texas for its anti-abortion law by highlighting that it violates international law by denying women control over their own bodies. Speaking to The Guardian, Melissa Upreti — the chair of the UN's working group on discrimination against women and girls — criticized the law as "structural sex and gender-based discrimination at its worst." Echoing the arguments of pro-choice activists, she warned that the legislation could force abortion providers underground and drive women to seek unsafe procedures that could prove fatal.
Day one of Texas’s new abortion law and men are already strategizing on Reddit about how to turn in women they impregnated to earn the $10k bounty. pic.twitter.com/Ke03jUY31Q— Kendall Brown (@kendallybrown) September 3, 2021
"This new law will make abortion unsafe and deadly, and create a whole new set of risks for women and girls. It is profoundly discriminatory and violates a number of rights guaranteed under international law," said Upreti, who is one of five independent experts charged by the UN human rights council in Geneva to push for the elimination of discrimination against women and girls around the world. The lawyer also called out the US supreme court for allowing the law to go ahead, despite the provision's blatant disregard of the court's own 1973 ruling legalizing abortion in the US, Roe v Wade.
Texas law bans abortions after a "fetal heartbeat" is detected, but doctors say that term isn't based in science. What an ultrasound detects in an embryo at 6 weeks is electrical activity from cells — not a heart.— NPR (@NPR) September 4, 2021
And that sound? It's made by the machine.https://t.co/LZr4NWfc5E
"The law and the way it came about – through the refusal of the US supreme court to block it based on existing legal precedent – has not only taken Texas backward, but in the eyes of the international community, it has taken the entire country backward," Upreti said. Reem Alsalem, the UN's independent monitor on violence against women, also criticized the court for the part it played. "Through this decision the supreme court of the United States has chosen to trample on the protection of women’s reproductive rights, thereby exposing them and abortion service providers to more violence," said Alsalem.